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PAXTON – After losing four of its last five games, PBL got back in the win column Saturday with a 68-46 victory over Urbana Uni High.
“Obviously, it’s good to get a win after dropping back-to-back,” PBL head coach Scot Vogel said. “I thought it was a good for the kids to finally get back in the win column and feel good about themselves and have a little confidence. Hopefully, that will carry us a while.”
The Panthers won thanks in part to a defensive adjustment from a zone defense run through a majority of the first half to a man defense.
PBL allowed 32 points in the first half en route to a 32-30 halftime deficit. The Panthers (8-6, 1-2 Sangamon Valley Conference) responded by yielding only 14 points in the second half, including four in the fourth quarter.
Despite a lack of quality defense, PBL led 14-13 after the first quarter thanks to five points from Tyler Rubarts and Drew Schrodt each. Ruberts helped the Panthers extend its lead to 26-19 with six points in the second quarter.
However, Uni High’s George Voulgaris – who finished with a game-high 22 points – scored eight second-quarter points to help pull his team ahead. An Isaak Haberman three-point play with 20.7 seconds left in the first half gave Uni High the 32-30 lead.
“I thought that we came out – for whatever reason, I’m not sure; maybe the coaches have to do a better job – a little bit flat and just weren’t very aggressive out of our zone like we had played it the last couple of games,” Vogel said. “That was a little baffling to see. Credit those guys at Uni High. They came out read y to play, and we’ve just got to make sure that we continue to improve each game, continue to work hard in practice, and hopefully we see carryover into the games night-in and night-out as the season goes on.”
While PBL’s man-to-man defense held Uni High to 10 third-quarter points (all of which were scored by Voulgaris), a Jay Eshleman 3-pointer and an Axl Denault basket tied the game at 36-36 and 38-38, respectively. Rubarts gave PBL a 40-38 lead it would not surrender via two free throws with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter.
From there, the Panthers ended the third quarter on an 11-4 run to go into the fourth quarter leading 51-42 before outscoring Uni High 17-4 in the fourth quarter.
“We switched it up there and went to man, and I thought that the kids played pretty hard out of it,” Vogel said. “I thought we made some good strides in the third quarter. Our focus, our intensity level and possession efficiency just was way better. We were able to extend the lead and basically put the game away.
“We were playing zone almost all the way until late in the second quarter. For whatever reason, our rotations weren’t very good. It just didn’t look crisp, and so we just decided to change it up and go back to man a little bit there, and I thought we did a good job of just getting on the ball and making them earn some things. We were a little tougher than we were when we were playing zone. For whatever reason, we weren’t very crisp in our zone. Defensively, we switched it back up, and I thought the kids played pretty hard in the man defense.”
Rubarts finished the game as PBL’s leading scorer with 21 points.
“That’s the best game he’s played probably from start to finish since the Thanksgiving tournament,” Vogel said. “He’s had some good looks and things like that, but for whatever reason, the ball hadn’t been dropping. Tonight, he was very aggressive. He took some good shots, and they dropped. I thought, defensively, he worked pretty hard and got some steals. It was good to see him do that because he’s worked hard. Hopefully, it’ll give him some confidence to where it carries on game-in and game-out because we’ve gone through little bit of a scoring lull there, so it was good to see him do that.”
Rubarts was not as effective in PBL’s 55-46 loss Tuesday, Jan. 8, to St. Thomas More. He only scored two points as he battled the flu.
Jeremy Walder and Schrodt each scored in double figures to lead the Panthers against STM with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
“(Tyler’s) been sick, so it was good to see him bounce back from that and come out with a great game (Saturday), Vogel said. “When we were playing against St. Thomas More, he just didn’t look like his usual self. When you’re around the guys so much, you can tell by their mannerisms if they’re feeling 100 percent or not. For whatever reason, he didn’t look like the normal Tyler I was used to seeing on Tuesday. And sure enough, after Wednesday, he went home and he was sick with the flu.
“He’d been fighting it off all this week at school and missed a couple days of school. He came back and gutted through practice on Friday and is obviously looking better health-wise. I’m glad to see him getting better. It’s that time of year. Flus are going around. You just hope that everybody doesn’t get it because it can really shorten your bench.”
PBL’s bench was already shortened due to an ankle injury suffered by Weston Weber.
“Weston tweaked his ankle,” Vogel said. “We’re pretty sure he’ll be back for the Cissna Park game, but it’s just one of those things where it makes for a short bench on an already short bench. Hopefully, it will make us better as the season goes on. We were doing some shooting and he just tweaked it at practice. It was just one of those things. It happened. Injuries happen sometimes. It wasn’t any contact or anything. He just cut on it, and for whatever reason, it rolled.”
Freshman Johnny Walder helped PBL make up for Weber’s absence by scoring all six of his points in the first half, including the go-ahead field goal that put PBL up 14-13 at the end of the first quarter and a 3-pointer in the second that extended the Panthers’ lead to 20-13.
“I thought Johnny Walder came in and –only being a freshman – did some things. He was able to give us some spurts there where we were able to substitute some guys,” Vogel said. “He’s learning. He’s playing out of necessity. It’s not ideal, but he’s working hard and giving us everything he’s got. So we’ve just got to make sure to continue to improve as the year goes on.”
The PBL junior varsity squad won both of its games during the week.
The Panthers defeated St. Thomas More 38-29 Tuesday, Jan. 8, and Uni High 50-6 Saturday to improve to a record of 9-3.
Corbin Riecks led PBL against Uni High with 10 points. Johnny Walder added nine points.
PBL 68, Uni High 46
Isaak Haberman 1-1-3, Panos Voulgaris 0-0-0, Randall Hornbaker 1-0-3, Talik Koric 3-2-8, Taharka Baraka 5-0-10, George Voulgaris 8-6-22, Henry Carlton 0-0-0, Sam LeRoy 0-0-0, Bauer 0-0-0. Totals 18-9-46.
PBL (8-6, 1-2 SVC)
Vaughn Gentzler 1-2-4, Jay Eshleman 2-0-6, Tyler Rubarts 7-6-21, Axl Denault 3-2-8, Jeremy Walder 2-0-4, Drew Schrodt 7-0-17, Johnny Walder 2-1-6, Parker Young 1-0-2, Kyler Swanson 0-0-0, Patrick Brown 0-0-0. Totals 25-11-68.
UNI HIGH 13 19 10 4 -- 46
PBL 14 16 21 17 -- 68
3-pointers – Uni High (Hornbaker). PBL 7 (Schrodt 3, Eshleman 2, Jo. Walder, Rubarts).